Thursday, January 8, 2009

Back from Iggy's 1st town hall

As I write this I realize my notes are incomplete and reflect my personal interests, and how difficult a reporters job is. Note to self: improve note-taking skills for next time.

The venue was a small theatre at Neptune with a sold-out crowd. They (Halifax Chamber of Commerce) had to add a second meeting tomorrow afternoon.

Mr. Ignatieff said he would value the upcoming budget using a quote from Joseph Howe: "What is right? What is just? What is for the public good?" He also wants to know how much of the spending is "shovel ready", i.e. how fast can the money be disbursed.

The spending should be green, but qualified that could apply to evolutionary improvements as well as brand new technologies. He'd like to see the GM deliver the Chevy Volt.

Scott Brison followed that with an example he called the Atlantic Energy Corridor, which could deliver green electricity (wind, tidal, hydro) to markets outside Atlantic Canada. It made me wonder about how to deal with NS Power as both a generator and a distributor, yet competing with other generators (see my earlier post).

Mr. Ignatieff suggested spending on summer employment for students.

Mr. Brison said he'd like to change the tax system to encourage venture capital, referencing Ireland as an example.

Mr. McCallum said we need to get banks lending again. I didn't quite hear everything he said, and think he simplified that a lot as was necessary for the time allotted. IMHO that's a pretty detailed and complex topic to get into in this context.

A question asked Mr. Ignatieffwhat he'd do in his first 100 days if he were PM on Monday. He joked that part of the question sounded pretty good. He simplified his answer to 3 points:
  1. Tax cuts for low- and medium-income workers, and a possible one-time-only income boost
  2. Changes to EI including a reduced waiting period, faster claims processing and equality of qualification across the country
  3. Shovels in the ground, by spending 80-90 hours/week on the phone to every mayor in the country to find out what they can spend right now. Halifax mayor Peter Kelly was in the back of the room, and joked (I think) he had a $1.2B list for him.
One of the last questions asked if he still supported the coalition. He replied "my position is still coalition if necessary, not necessarily coalition." He said he would not compromise the unity of Canada or his liberal values, and re-iterated the Joe Howe quote "What is right? What is just? What is for the public good?" He said he wouldn't dismiss the coalition as an option, saying Mr. Harper had acted quite unpredictably and against the public interest by pulling $6B out of the economy instead of stimulating it.

My interpretation or opinion is he genuinely wants to keep his options open, and wants to see the budget before making any decision.

1 comment:

  1. Disappointed that Iggy didn't see changing the claim period to longer, and increase eligibility, like it was before the Liberals changed EI in the late 90s. Considering that the majority of people who must contribute but cannot collect, makes a mockery of it as an "insurance program." Also, doing or advocating for this would bring "good will towards" the liberals, as working people who quite "pissed" at the liberals when they took "workers money" and used it as their "vote buying" slush fund.